February 1, 2017 • Life for Leaders
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In the last two Life for Leaders devotions, we were reflecting on how we can love God with all of our heart, that is, with our thoughtful choices, our decisions, and our will. Today, we move on to consider how we might love God with all our soul in and through our daily work.
When English speakers hear the word “soul,” we tend to think of some inner essence of our being, the part of us that is eternal and needs to “get saved.” For those who spoke biblical languages, however, the soul was more than this. The Greek word translated as “soul” is Mark 12:30 is psyche, related to the English words “psyche” and “psychology.” This might lead us to render psyche as “mind” or “thinking capacity.” But, in fact, the Greek word psyche could be used to refer to life in itself, or the energy that makes one alive. Psyche was also used in relationship to feelings or desires.
As we have noted previously, in Mark 12:29-30 Jesus quotes the Shema from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. Where our English translations of Deuteronomy say we’re to love God with all of our soul, the original Hebrew uses the word nefesh (Deut 6:5) According to the standard Hebrew-English lexicon, nefesh means, “soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion.” The nefesh is what gives life to a person, and not just physical life, but emotional life as well. Thus, the Common English Bible translation prefers “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your being” rather than “all your soul.” The Message puts it this way, “Love [God] with all that’s in you.”
When Jesus, following Deuteronomy, talks about loving God with all of our soul, he means we are to be unrestrained in our love of God. Will our love be a matter of deep commitment? Yes. Will our love for God be a matter of feelings? Yes. Will our love for God be at the center of our lives? Yes. In contemporary English, we might speak of being “all out” in our love for God, or, as is common these days, “all in.” Our love for God, though not limited to our emotions, does indeed embrace our feelings as well as our thoughts. It encompasses all that we are inside.
So, then, the question for us is how can we love God in this way, with our souls, with all that’s in us, in the context of our work? I’ll leave you with this question for now and pick up the conversation tomorrow. Before I offer a few of my own thoughts on the matter, you might reflect on the following questions.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a time in your life when you loved God “with all that’s in you”? What motivated this love? How did you express it?
How might you express such deep love for God in the context of your work?
How might your daily work help you to grow in your soul’s love for God?
Gracious God, once again we thank you for the privilege of knowing and loving you. Thanks for making yourself known to us. Thank you for inviting us to love you in response to your love for us.
Help us, dear Lord, to know what it means to love you “with all our soul,” with all that’s in us. And then, we pray, help us to love you this way, without limit or restraint, with every part of our inner being. May we love you from the deepest place within us, the source of our very lives. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Statues and Ordinances (Deuteronomy 4:44-28:68)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.